Risk management in laboratory work

Risk management is one important part of the work to reach good work environment. The work environment should be regularly investigated and risk assessed. The risk assessments should be in writing documentation. In laboratory work the risks are diverse. There are risks with chemicals and micro organisms as well as ergonomics and other physical factors as vibrations and noise. 

Risk management is a process including steps from planning to monitoring the result.

  1. Planning and collecting information
  2. Risk identification
  3. Risk evaluation and prioritisation
  4. Measures
  5. Monitoring

The results from a risk management process can serve as a basis for decisions on which measures to prioritise.

Support in the work with risk management in laboratory work
Form for risk assessment; risk matrix
Form for risk assessment; low, medium, high risk 

Risk assessment

Risk assessment is a way to investigate if the way in which a work is done is safe or if there is a need for measures to reduce the risks. The risks assessed are those involved in work with a chemical product or a chemical hazard. A chemical hazard is a substance, or combination of chemical substances, that may entail ill health or accidents:

  • because of its properties that are hazardous to health
  • because of its temperature
  • by reducing the concentration of oxygen in the air
  • by increasing the risk of fire, explosion or other dangerous chemical reaction.

Remember that laboratory work also can include risks other than those where chemical hazards are involved, for example vibrations, noise, micro organisms and heavy lifting or repetitive work as in pipetting.

Responsibility

At Uppsala University, heads of department (or equivalent) are responsible for ensuring that risk management takes place. Heads of department (or equivalent) can in turn, with advantage, delegate the tasks involved to colleagues at the department (or equivalent) who are well informed about the laboratory operations to be risk-assessed.

Human, technology and organisation (HTO)

It is important to take human–technology–organisation (HTO) interaction into account in risk management, since workplace accidents are usually caused by a combination of these factors. Applying the concept of HTO provides a better all-round view.

Human factors - attitudes; safety culture; current fitness.

Technical factors - according to work tasks and requirements,

e.g. expertise.

Organisational factors - absence of rules; induction; training.

Monitoring

An assessment of what constitutes a sufficiently safe work procedure is not permanent. The risk management process therefore need to be monitored regularly (at least once a year, in the event of changes or after an accident or incident). What has once been found to be an acceptable risk may not, perhaps, be considered acceptable today.

More information about risk management

Swedish Work Environment Authority
Prevent (in Swedish)